Thursday, 12 July 2018 11:08

Exhibition features artistic impressions of horses and cattle

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Eastend artist Grieta Krisjansons talks about her horse sculpture, which is made from scrap metal. Eastend artist Grieta Krisjansons talks about her horse sculpture, which is made from scrap metal. Matthew Liebenberg/Prairie Post

Artists are using different media to reflect on the cultural importance of horses and cattle in the current exhibition at the West Wing Gallery in Swift Current.


A public reception with a talk by artists in attendance took place on July 5. The title of the exhibition is Horse and Cattle Show.
Art Gallery of Swift Current Director and Curator Kim Houghtaling arranges an annual show during June and July at the West Wing Gallery that coincides with the Frontier Days fair and exhibition.
“At that time, we get a couple of thousand people to visit the gallery,” he said. “So it’s an opportunity to do something that they will appreciate or find interesting.”
This show therefore fits in well with the equine and livestock events that took place on the exhibition grounds during Frontier Days.
“There was this humorous connection between the idea of a horse and cattle show, and this gallery to kind of complement the things that are going on across the fair,” he said.
At the same time the exhibition is a reflection of the connection that many artists in the region have to farm culture.
“Many of them have used horse and cattle and farm animals as a key figure in the expressions that they made,” he explained. “So when I started to borrow work from the artists it really opened up into a very diverse show – paintings and sculptures and construction and highly symbolic things, and things from our permanent collection that have come together over the years from different past stories and so forth, all just fitting in very well. I think it turned out to be really interesting show.”
Some works in the exhibition can be considered to be more cutting edge or abstract compared to other works that are focused on presenting scenes from rural life, but for Houghtaling both are valid expressions of an artistic view.
“They’re all really authentic people, living an authentic cultural life and talking about it in a way that they would,” he said. “Audiences have that levels of experience and the amount of depth that they want to explore with an artist is really based on who they are as well. … I don’t believe in a pyramid structure where you are a more important artist because you do something that is seemingly cutting edge. I think if you’re working hard and you’re being authentic, that’s what you need to be doing and that’s what I want to represent.”
One of the most visually compelling art pieces in the exhibition is a life-sized sculpture of a horse by Eastend artist and cattle rancher Grieta Krisjansons. It took her about 90 hours to create Aquilo, the North Wind Warrior, from pieces of scrap metal that came from her own ranch as well as other farms and ranches in the southwest.
“I have that ability to weld and I had all of these machine parts and scrap iron at my disposal,” she said. “So it’s really recycling, using old material and making it beautiful again.”
She enjoys creating artworks on a large scale, but she has not done a three-dimensional sculpture of this size before.
“I like to do things big to make sure I give myself a challenge when it comes to art,” she said. “I had the movement that I wanted to portray. … So I started cutting square tubing and putting it together in the position that I wanted them to be in and he just sort of came. I never even measured anything. He just appeared.”
She originally created Aquilo for a steampunk production, which took place at the Spring Valley Guest Ranch south of Maple Creek. Two of her other works are also in the exhibition. Both are large paintings of horses.
“Within the last 15 years I’ve been doing mostly horses, but I’ll do anything,” she said. “I don’t only restrict my work to horses. They’re just the most familiar animal to me, because I’ve grown up with them – working horses, not pleasure horses. So I understand their anatomy and their composition.”
There are many artists in her family and art was therefore something natural to her along with ranching when she grew up. After school she studied art at the Victoria College of Art and Design in British Columbia as well as the Alberta College of Art and Design, and then returned home to take over the management of the ranch.
“I think it’s great to have this exhibition here, because horses and cattle are such a large part of our history and of what makes up this area of the province now,” she said. “A lot of people in this area who will be coming to this show can relate to it. So there’s some nostalgia in it and then there’s reality in it too.”
The Horse and Cattle Show will still be on display at the West Wing Gallery until July 22. The gallery is located in the Airmen's Barracks at Kinetic Exhibition Park. Admission to the gallery if free, and the exhibition is open from 1-5 p.m. every Friday, Saturday and Sunday as well as on Mondays during long weekends.

Read 123 times Last modified on Friday, 13 July 2018 11:33
Matthew Liebenberg

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